Cannes' favorite is still in production

Hong Kong director has friends in high places: Tarantino

Cannes Notebook

May 20, 2004|By John Anderson | John Anderson,NEWSDAY

CANNES, France - It's appropriate that the Cannes Film Festival takes place on the Mediterranean, because it is time to fish or cut bait.

If one wanted to bet on which film will win the grand prize on Saturday, one would have to wager on something as yet unseen. And that something is Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai's 2046 - which, amazingly enough, was apparently not yet finished at press time. All screenings had been "rescheduled" - to when, no one knew.

For a film originally expected to be in the 2003 Cannes festival, this is rather extraordinary, although Wong now has reason to do what he never seems capable of doing - rush. One of his biggest fans, Quentin Tarantino, is president of the jury, a position of enormous power over who wins or loses the coveted Palme d'Or. He has more votes than other jurors, he is allowed to pick some members of the panel (guaranteeing allegiance), and with the ever-expanding ego on display during his public appearances, he seems apt to be big-footing it around when decision time draws near.

There isn't much else in the running. Tom Hanks made the trip up the red carpet on Tuesday, but The Ladykillers is still Cannes favorite Joel Coen's weakest effort. The violent Korean thriller Old Boy seemed up Tarantino's alley, but the film lacks the gravity of a Palme d'Or winner. Since the festival keeps inviting animated films, one has to eventually win, and both Shrek 2 and the befuddling but stunning Japanese anime Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence have as good a chance as any. But a cartoon winning Cannes?

What the festival seems in danger of doing is making its competition irrelevant. The Thai Tropical Malady is all but incomprehensible; Tony Gatlif's Exils is irritating and silly, and Emir Kusturica's Life Is a Miracle is widely seen as a debacle. Lucrecia Martel's The Holy Girl and Paolo Sorrentino's The Consequences of Love alienated enough people that either could win - if the jury works itself into a fit of perversity.

Michael Moore? It's quite possible that with such intellects as Finnish scholar Peter von Bagh and the British actress Tilda Swinton, the jury will decide to make a political statement and pick Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, which more or less nukes the Bush administration. But it would be an award given on other than cinematic merit, which is what Cannes is supposed to be all about.

The best film in competition thus far is Agnes Jaoui's See My Face, nothing but an expertly directed, strongly acted, character-driven comedy with a real story and believable people. And it has the home-field advantage. But it would seem antithetical to Tarantino, who, chances are, is at the airport now, waiting for Wong Kar-wai.

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